Panthers score late, earn big victory

WINNECONNE – The Plymouth Panthers scratched and clawed their way to a 15-14 win over Winneconne here Friday night in a key East Central Conference football game.

The victory clinched a state playoff spot for the Panthers (the school’s 14th straight post season berth) and kept their hopes alive for the ECC championship. PHS, which has won three in a row, upped its league record to 4-1 (4-3 overall) and is tied for second with Berlin. Winneconne slipped to 3-2 in the ECC (4-3 overall).

Kewaskum, which defeated Berlin, 21-6, Friday night, leads the ECC at 5-0. The Indians host PHS Oct. 16 in the regular-season finale for both teams.

“It was a great win against a very good football team on the road. The fans got their money’s worth – just a great high school football game,” said Panther head coach Dan Knaus.

Junior quarterback Gavin Falk scored the winning touchdown on a 29-yard scramble with about 4:30 left in the game on fourth down and 10 to go. The score gave PHS a 15-14 lead.

The Panthers sealed the victory when senior defensive end Ethan Keller forced a fumble and junior linebacker Joe Chandler recovered it with 1:43 remaining.

The Wolves took a 14-7 lead on their first possession of the second half on a 29-yard TD pass from quarterback Tyler Swanlund to Zachary Henderson.

The Panthers scored a huge safety with 12 seconds left in the third period which pulled them within 14-9 after three quarters. After PHS missed a 29-yard field goal, the Panthers’ defense scored the safety when the ball was snapped over Swanlund’s head from his 7-yard line and Keller pushed him out of the end zone after the quarterback recovered the ball.

PHS grabbed a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 5-yard TD run by tailback Samuel Staehling, followed by Jared Weinbauer’s PAT. The TD was set up by Derek Novotny’s 64-yard return on the opening kickoff.

The Wolves tied the score, 7-7, on a 3-yard TD run by Jeremiah Franz with only 10 seconds left until halftime.

“I think the keys to the victory was we played better in two of the phases of the game – special teams and turnover battle. Many times those two areas are the keys to victory,” said Knaus.

“The turning point of the game was definitely the safety. It changed momentum to our side and our kids rallied after it.”

Falk led PHS in rushing with 77 yards on only nine carries. He also threw for 85 yards.

“I thought Gavin did a nice job of scrambling all night. He kept plays alive with his legs,” said Knaus.

“On defense Ethan Keller played well, leading us in tackles.”

Keller had a team-high eight solo tackles and 13 total tackles. Chandler and junior linebacker Erik Ohman made six solo stops each.

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